About Innovation stories

Do we need a comic to talk about innovation?

In 2015 Harvard University published the first dissertation entirely written as a comic. Unflattening challenged how we create and communicate knowledge. Is there any benefit in science comics? I made an experiment. I transformed my own PhD thesis on Innovation Management into a comic.

Storytelling in research

In her book Writing management: organization theory as a literary genre Czarniawzka (1999) argues that narratives might have a potential that traditional ways of presenting knowledge cannot provide. Narratives use stories to connect isolated and confusing events, into one meaningful whole. In that way, narratives contributes with what Weick (1995) called “plausible explanations” that allow to make sense of what is going on in an organization. According to Czarniawzka, narratives have the power of establish connections between the exceptional and the ordinary, and transfer tacit knowledge, for example by exhibiting an explanation instead of demonstrating it.

Comics: a visual narrative

Jee and Anggoro (2012) assert that comics make concepts more concrete and easier to comprehend. Readers form mental representations of the characters, settings and events and that help them to relate to everyday experiences. One of the main contributions of comics is to generate a sense of empathy. According to Williams (2008), comics might allow readers to step into the eyes of another and consider a different point of view. Although the increasing production of science comics, “narrative knowing” has still a lower acceptance as a scientific approach than the traditional one (Czarniawska, 1999). An explanation might be that there have been few systematic studies demonstrating science comics’ effectiveness (Jee and Anggoro, 2012, Tatalovic, 2009).

Unflattening: legitimizing comics

Nick Sousanis’s Unflattening (2015), the first doctoral dissertation entirely written as a comic, became shocking. Flinch (2015) argues that Unflattening means a breaking point for at least two reasons. First, it shows that images are not subordinate to words, but equal partners in the articulation of thought. Second, because it is a dissertation in a comic-form it gives legitimacy to comics as a way to communicating and creating scientific knowledge.

A comic to talk about Innovation

Czarniawska says: ”The ambition to produce narrative knowledge changes the task of the researcher, instead of reproaching the practice and telling the practitioners which way to go, our task would be to tell them a good story”. I wanted to explore the production and contribution of science comics. I decided to make an experiment. To transform my own PhD dissertation on Innovation Management into a comic. Take a look at www.innovationstories.se and tell me what you think!

Ernesto Gutiérrez


Czarniawska, B. 1999. Writing Management: Organization Theory as a Literary Genre. Oxford University Press.

Finch, M. 2015. One Giant Leap: A Review of Unflattening. The comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 5(1): 6, pp. 1-5.

Jee, B. D. and Anggoro, F. K. 2012. Comic Cognition: Exploring the Potential Cognitive Impacts of Science Comics. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology 11 (2), 196-208.

Sousanis, N., 2015. Unflattening. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Tatalovic, M. 2009. Science comics as tools for science education and communication: a brief, exploratory study. Journal of Science Communication, 08(04) (2009) A02.

Weick, K. E. 1995. Sensemaking in organizations. Sage Publications, California.

Williams, R. M-C. 2008. Image, Text, and Story: Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom. Art Education. Nov 2008, 13-19.


Innovation stories is a research project to talk about innovation in the form of comics. It has been created from observations, interviews and literature on innovation and decision making. Scientific basis for all the concepts can be found in the Ph.D. thesis “Evaluation and selection of ideas and projects in product development”, (Gutiérrez, E., 2012) following the link https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:552614/FULLTEXT01.pdf.


The first stage aimed to find a visual language. In this page are published some of the developed concepts. A second stage will reshape the concepts for communicating more complex issues. A final third stage will integrate all the stories in a coherent whole that covers the most relevant aspects of decision making in innovation.


My name is Ernesto Gutiérrez and in 2012 I received my PhD from KTH, Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden. In my research, I studied innovation with a focus on decision making, strategy and project portfolio. With Innovation stories I have tried to create the work on Innovation management that I had needed when I was a research student and never found.


info@innovationstories.se        ernesto.gutierrez@innovationstories.se